Critics' Picks: Vampire Hands, Alexander O'Neal, Twilight Hours, and more

The Twilight Hours and Rogue Valley

Varsity Theater on Wednesday 12.21

Even though it's looking more and more likely that we're going not going to have a white Christmas here in the Twin Cities, at least the lush, elegant sounds of the Twilight Hours can get you in the holiday spirit. Trip Shakespeare vets Matt Wilson and John Munson have been crafting soaring, indelible melodies for years now, which consistently sound stellar in a proper live setting, and the Varsity is the ideal venue for their hushed, charming numbers. Local openers Rogue Valley, who recently completed their ambitious project of making four full-length records, one for each of the four seasons, should have plenty of appropriate songs in store for this time of year. The young quintet are bound to be the perfect complement to the Twilight Hours, setting up the headliners well with their own particular brand of heady, acoustic guitar-driven pop. 18+. $15/$17 at the door. 7 p.m. 1308 Fourth St. SE, Minneapolis; 612.604.0222. Erik Thompson

The Rope

Celebrate the holidays with the Twilight Hours
courtesy of the artists
Celebrate the holidays with the Twilight Hours

7th St. Entry on Wednesday 12.21

The Rope have a sultry darkness around them that is like a siren song sounding above the shiny, Moog-soaked din that the post-punk scene in Minneapolis has become of late. Pulling pieces from the best parts of '80s post-punk (Joy Division and Psychedelic Furs in particular), they do it louder, tighter, and simply better than most everyone else, dialing back the tongue-in-cheek references and simply allowing the material to stand or fall on its own, elevating the risk and, in turn, adding weight to the songs. The Rope have created a perpetual motion machine that operates only in an audio format, and they'll bring that machine to the Entry Wednesday to open for the Night, who are celebrating the release of their 7-inch. The bill from top to bottom looks to be solid, but the Rope are the band not to be missed. With Ghost in the Water and the Trapezoids. 18+. $5. 8 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.338.8388. Pat O'Brien

Alexander O'Neal

Dakota Jazz Club on Thursday 12.22

Although Alexander O'Neal was born and raised in Mississippi, his musical hometown will always be Minneapolis, where in the 1980s he helped forge the Minneapolis Sound as the initial lead singer of the Time and in a subsequent solo career. O'Neal has been based in the U.K. for more than a decade. But just before Christmas a year ago he made a triumphant return to his old haunts and the Dakota, where his performance was recorded by a production team led by former Prince drummer Bobby Z and released as a CD/DVD package appropriately dubbed Live in Minneapolis. With his classic soul voice in prime form, O'Neal croons and growls through a greatest-hits set of romantic ballads and sleek Minneapolis funk, with a couple of yuletide nuggets thrown in for the holidays, most written by the Flyte Tyme team of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. This year's to-the-day concert reprise should be equally entertaining and festive. $35. 7 p.m. 1010 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis; 612.332.1010. —Rick Mason

Vampire Hands

Turf Club on Thursday 12.22

Vampire Hands sure made quite a big splash in the Twin Cities music scene back in the mid-to-late '00s. And while the band fractured a bit and as a result became a trio, their influence still permeates the current local sound, as the three active members went on to form Heavy Deeds, while bassist Chris Bierden pulses at the heart of Poliça's soulful sound and guitarist Chris Rose performs solo as Robust Worlds. But something about Vampire Hands' hypnotic, hazy rock sound still holds a strong appeal for their longtime fans as well as the musicians themselves, who will reunite with original member Colin Johnson for this show at the Turf Club. The blistering local quartet Voytek open the night with a bang, as their energetic garage-rock sound should get everyone good and primed for the triumphant return of local darlings Vampire Hands. With Shahs and Wave Pool. 21+. $7. 9 p.m. 1601 University Ave. W., St. Paul; 651.647.0486. —Erik Thompson

Grant Hart

7th St. Entry on Thursday 12.22

After a tumultuous year that saw him lose most of his treasured possessions in a house fire (causing local musicians to rally behind him for a benefit concert), Grant Hart is ready to put 2011 behind him the best way he knows how—with a boisterous, old fashioned rock 'n' roll show in the Entry. The former Hüsker Dü drummer is sure to put on a spirited, engaging performance in front of his faithful fans, highlighting his criminally overlooked songwriting talents with tracks both new and old. Hart is a talented artist who always manages to captivate an audience no matter what he is doing, and this intimate performance should prove to be no exception. Opening the evening will be the Rank Strangers' Michael Wisti, who has produced some of Hart's recent material at his Albatross Studio, and he should jump-start the night properly with his own particular style of raucous garage-rock. With Max Edwards. 18+. $5. 8 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.338.8388. —Erik Thompson

The Bad Plus

Dakota Jazz Club on Friday 12.23, Sunday 12.25 and Monday 12.26

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